Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, left, with other members of the group. The team aims to boost literary activites in Jeddah. (Supplied photo )
Updated 15 January 2019
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Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

  • Jeddah Reads aims to revive reading in the city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile
  • Huda Merchant says she was encouraged to organize the group after noticing a "complete lack of a reading culture” in the city

JEDDAH: In a world dominated by the smartphone and the screen, bookworms have been forced to retreat into the shadows, rarely seen beyond the inner sanctums of libraries and reading rooms. Jeddah Reads, though, plans to change that.

A book-based social initiative, Jeddah Reads is a group that came together with one aim: To revive reading in their city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile.

Formed in 2015, the group thinks that by holding reading groups, workshops and social gatherings, more people will make the choice to start reading for themselves.

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, explained: “In 2014, I was researching cultural issues and trends in Saudi Arabia, and something I noticed was the complete lack of a reading culture.”

Among the projects being organized is Wameed 2.0, a series of talks on various themes, recent growth and change to coincide with the new year, to encourage people to use books to help them achieve their goals.

Abrar Al-Qayem, the project manager, said: “We try to have passionate members. That is the soul of this particular project; to encourage people with creative ideas, be they language-based, say, or artistic, who want to develop them.”

 

Message

Jeddah Reads has reached out to coffee shops and hospitals to promote their message. “We would like to see people reading books instead of texting,” Al-Qayem added. “Reading in the community is dying.” 

When gathering information about reading in schools, for example, Jeddah Reads made the shocking discovery that over 60 percent of them don’t have libraries. 

“There is a stigma about reading, because new devices are faster and more efficient. We aim to change this, to eliminate the stigma associated with reading,” said Al-Qayem.

The group gives free packages to new readers, with stationery, trinkets and, of course, a book. “We leave it up to chance to decide if the reader will like it!” Al-Qayem explained. 

“For me, reading is healing. I faced a lot of health problems, so I was always stuck with a book. Reading became an escape. I believe that words are powerful; you can always go anywhere through books.”

The next stage for Jeddah Reads is to expand their events to cater for all genders, age groups and genres, and at the rate the movement is progressing, it surely won’t be long before the population of Jeddah transforms into an army of avid readers.


Launch of Joint Al-Jazeera Shield Drill in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

Updated 23 February 2019
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Launch of Joint Al-Jazeera Shield Drill in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

  • The two-week drill was launched in the presence of commander for the exercise, Gen. Abdullah bin Saeed Al-Qahtani, and commanders of participating Gulf forces
  • Al-Qahtani welcomed all participants and thanked them for their efforts in the planning and preparation of the drill

JEDDAH: Saudi armed forces and security sectors teamed up with land, maritime and air forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for the tenth Joint Al-Jazeera Shield Drill on Saturday.
The two-week drill was launched in the presence of commander for the exercise, Gen. Abdullah bin Saeed Al-Qahtani, and commanders of participating Gulf forces.
Al-Qahtani welcomed all participants and thanked them for their efforts in the planning and preparation of the drill.
He said that the exercises aimed to promote cooperation and exchange experience between the Saudi and GCC countries forces to improve the level of training for all forces.
The exercise sought to develop skills and use the available resources to develop concepts and promote joint work, he added. The drill was part of a series of joint military drills between the GCC countries at various levels.
He said that the Joint Al-Jazeera Shield Drill was one of the largest exercises in the region and part of a comprehensive strategic vision by the Saudi Defense Ministry, which aims to constantly gain experience, promote security and military readiness under different circumstances to preserve security and stability in the Arab Gulf and the world.
Spokesman for the drill, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Hussein Al-Subaihi, said that it included four phases.
The first phase is the arrival of the forces via land, maritime and air entry points. The academic training phase, including conferences for all participating forces from all GCC countries, was also launched on Saturday.
The second phase is the command center drill; this exercise will train commanders to manage military operations and use simulators in virtual military operations.
The third phase consists of field training with live ammunition, and the fourth includes the closing ceremony and departure of forces.